how I want to spend eternity

One morning several months back Hubby announced quite matter-of-factly “when I die, just put my body into a plain pine box and drop me off at the crematorium.” He was reading a price comparison related to burial expenses. As recent retirees, we tend to think once or twice about whether certain expenses are worth the money that could be put to better use doing other things—such as traveling to Europe for instance. We’ve never resolved the old question of whether we’ll go along with Mama’s wish that we would spend eternity side by side with the Grahams in the family burial plot in the cemetery of a churchyard in Florida. Somehow, neither of relish this thought—I about being six-feet under the earth for time immemorial nor he on being the only Hindu buried amongst a multitude of southern Baptists. Now that we are retired, perhaps it IS time to rethink this whole issue of how we should spend eternity.

I’ve tried many times over the years to explain to him how Christians believe that the soul is immortal so that the body should remain intact in case we need it later, when Gabriel blows his horn to summon us all to Heaven after Christ’s Second Coming. He’s responded as many times how the body is nothing a vessel for the soul that will return reincarnated in a new body anyway. Since it won’t be needed any longer we should think nothing of covering it with piles of wood or cow chips, dousing it with fuel and lighting it with a match. So far, all I know for certain is that when one of us dies we’ll either be buried quick enough and deep enough so as not to stink, or reduced to ashes and scattered by the wind for pretty much the same reason. Of course history and the Internet are full of references to burial customs and body disposal. Here are some of the more interesting facts I found in the Death in Burial and Belief website, none of which—may I add—sounds appealing:

In the African Congo, when a person dies, his hut is pulled down on top of him, and survivors move their camp while relatives cry. The dead person is never mentioned again. The Navajos of the Southwest United States, also destroy the house of the dead person, and then relatives burn the body. The Aboriginals of Australia leave dead bodies in trees. The Parsees of Bombay (India) used to leave their dead on top of towers to be eaten by vultures. Also in India, the first-born son of a Hindu must personally light the funeral pyre of his deceased father. It would be a lot easier on the son to lay the dead out on a reef for the sharks to eat as they do in the Solomon Islands. But I don’t think they have reefs in India.

All interesting solutions, but still no answer to my plight. So I decided to do what I do best: lay the issue aside and procrastinate until the answer comes to me either divinely or otherwise. That’s when the solution presented itself to me. In “Assasination Vacation,” a book by Sarah Vowell, who writes on historical themes in such a bizarre way as to make history really interesting to people like me with a sometimes twisted way of looking at things, she introduces me in a brief aside to a story about John Wilkes Booth, to Jeremy Bentham, an eighteenth-century Englishman associated with the University of London. According to Gretchen Worden, who for many years was the Director of the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, after Bentham died his body was mummified and left to the University with a stipulation in his will that he attend all the annual meetings. To this day his body is rolled out in a wheelchair every year from the closet he’s stored in, mostly just a skeleton with clothes on it, his face modeled in wax.

All I know about Heaven or Hell that I am sure-fired certain of is whatever we make of our lives while we’re still living. Heaven can be as simple as enjoying coffee on a sun-filtered porch drinking coffee and being serenaded by the birds, and Hell might be having to plan and cook 365 meals a year times 3; it’s all in what you make of it. So, instead of being buried inside a coffin in the earth, where I’m pretty sure there are will be no birds, no sunshine and no coffee, I want my body mummified and arranged sitting in a rocking chair on my front balcony with panoramic views of the Great Salt Lake, the city, and surrounding mountains. I may not be aware of the view or surroundings, but at least I’ll be right in the midst of a little bit of Heaven for as long as eternity lasts. And just in case the Christians turn out to be right and my soul comes looking for my body in which to makes its ascension into Heaven, I’ll be ready. How much will this cost, you say? Well, I believe Heaven is also never having to wonder if you can afford it, and some things are just better left to your survivors to worry about. So hang the expense! Dress me in comfortable clothes, and be sure to model the wax on my face so that it looks as it did when I was 42.

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7 thoughts on “how I want to spend eternity

  1. Well, I think that is a great idea – but I don’t have a front porch – so I think I would like my ashes, after I am dead and cremated that is, scattered over the city of Rome in Italy. I always loved Rome and then I will be closer to the Eternal City!

  2. I checked out this link and it’s actually a fascinating idea! I’ve always loved fine art, and the idea of my ashes collected in one and passed down on and on is titilating to say the least. I can just see down the line when either Vimmy II’s or Thomas’s grandaughter/grandson has a fine new home on whatever planet she/he chooses to live. I see a grande (yes, spelled with an “e”) room with shelves on which rest stylistic artistic versions of vases (pronounced VAHZEs please). And the room will have to be locked of course because of the tremendous value of these art pieces.

  3. Alice,

    I decided to check out weird stuff first and you’re right, it is. But it’s also very common topic (especially for us retired folk). Guess I don’t worry too much about where I go as long as I’m dead. But we have the option in our family–Bill has two plots next to his parents and I have two next to mine. And since it doesn’t matter to me, I’ll bury him next to his parents and be buried next to him. I’ll let someone else have the other two. If you end up on the porch and go before I do–I’ll have to plan a visit and maybe sit down and enjoy a cuppa with you. I guess the only thing I worry about is if I’m in an open coffin and they don’t do a good job on my hair and makeup. Hmmm, I can see I’ll have to make some plans for that ahead of time. Wonder if those makeup artists from “What Not to Wear” are available for funerals???

  4. Soooo, Nina, the fact that you decided to check out the “weird stuff” first tells me why, after all our years away from Ohio, I still consider you one of my friends! And I’m with you about hair (though I’m still wayyyy behind with makeup;makes me look like a clown I think) since my hair (or lack of it) has always been a challenge. That’s a great idea about stopping by for a cup of coffee, since there are lots and lots of coffee/chai huts strung about the town here! Who woulda thunk it, there being such a large percentage of LDS here who “never touch the stuff!” : )

  5. Actually I checked out the animals I have known first but the weird stuff caught my eye and I couldn’t stop myself. The thought of Pasu with the Baptists will just not leave my mind.

    I can’t remember which show I was watching that was telling about coffee shops (yeah–the memory sure ain’t what it used to be) but it doesn’t surprise me that there are coffee shops there. It might have been a Jeopardy category now that I think of it and the numbers were huge. What started out as a place to read poetry in New York’s Greenwich Village has now become a place to visit with your retired friends (we have a huge number of men who do coffee and gossip around here) and of course, you have your places to hook up your laptops at Starbucks. Coffee–it’s not just for breakfast anymore.

  6. This was great….lol
    I really like your idea a lot, however, last year we purchased plots in Cedar Key cemetery, along with our stone. I truly want to spend eternity here. And it’s SO gorgeous in there….more like a park. When I said to Miss Jackie (who sold us the plot for the city) “I want to face THAT way, with the water view.” She said, “You can’t. You have to face THAT way, facing east.” (Never heard that one before) Then she said, “For God’s Sake, Terri, just turn on your SIDE. Then you’ll be able to see the water.”
    AH…yes….I love Cedar Key.

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